Wednesday, October 07, 2015

{freezers meals: I'm giving it a go}

We are not big fans of buying ready-to-go meals. They are okay from time to time, but for the large part, I try to avoid frozen and prepackaged foods when possible. I know there are some very healthy options out there, but I like being able to control what we eat. The problem is that there are only so many hours in the day. After I get home from work, I want to spend time with the kids, not use 45 minutes to make dinner. Over the course of the school week, that is 2 3/4 hours used for making dinner. That's too much.

I have tried crockpot meals. We are just not huge fans of the crockpot. The main reason for that is that we need 8-10 hours of cook time for the timing to work for us. There are some amazing 4-6 hour recipes, and I've tried to use those. Our crockpot has a warm setting, so after the 4-6 hours it flips to the warming function. It still dries out the food. There are some great beef roast recipes, but I can only eat so much beef roast. 

The best option for us, I decided, was to put together some freezer meals. Again, I was confronted with the crockpot problem while I searched for recipes on Pinterest. Almost all of the recipes on there were to be put in the crockpot. I decided to try this one mainly because they are kid-friendly:
The recipes were for:
  1. Chicken Tacos
  2. Cheesy Tortellini with Ground Beef
  3. Chicken Noodle Soup
  4. Cheesy Chicken Tater Tot Casserole
  5. Easy Chicken Pot Pie
  6. Turkey Black Bean Chili
  7. Mozzarella-Stuffed Turkey Pesto Meatballs
I changed up some things for the recipes. Anything that called from ground beef or ground turkey, I cooked it up before I put it into the bag. I didn't like the idea of dropping a block of raw meat into the freezer bag. The chopped chicken was different; I am used to marinating chicken meat. I also examined each recipe to see how long it needed to cook in the crockpot, and then I decided if it would be best baked or cooked in the oven. 

The first thing I did was label a freezer bag for each of the meals. I wrote the date, what it was, and also the cooking directions. I sometimes also added what else needed to be added. For example, the Chicken Pot Pie recipe also calls for whipping cream that doesn't get added until the end:
Then I started to cook. Overall, I think it took me about two solid hours to prep it all. She says it takes 85 minutes, but that was without browning up the ground meat. That's not too bad. We still have leftovers in our refrigerator from last week, so we will not need a new meal each day. I figure these meals will work for two weeks for us. Not too shabby for two hours of my time.

My kitchen did get a little crazy for awhile:
but it smelled pretty good, too.

Two of the recipes I put together were Turkey chili:
and Mozzarella Turkey Meatballs:
As I've said before, the kids LOVE meatballs. I know that will be a hit when we eat that one.

This time I didn't have my little helpers with me. That's okay. It was Sunday when I prepped, and they were too busy playing...as they should be :)

Here is my finished pile of meals:
I then put them in my deep freeze. I put them flat over night, but then once they freeze that way, you can later go back and stack them sideways:
 
For example, here is a spaghetti sauce that I froze in August that I can now stack. I stacked it sideways between the two piles:
 
Once they are frozen, then they do not take up very much room at all. The casserole dish does take up more room, but that will be one of the first dishes we use.

The next step is just to plan what we want to eat when. I can take the meal out of the freezer the night before and put it in the fridge to thaw. Then when I get home from work, I just have to dump the contents into with the pan or baking dish, and I am good to go! While it is cooking, I can play with the kiddos or help Caden with his homework. Week night meal time prep should take 10 minutes or less. Yay!

We will let you know what we think about the recipes. I must say, they smelled pretty delicious! We are eating the Tater Tot Casserole tonight :)

I also got a few great ideas from Facebook when I asked for some help. I plan to try some of those as well. If you think of any other good recipes, let me know!

Until later!
Barby

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